In a scant 89 minutes, Sillitoe and Reisz create a world and immerse the viewer in it. This was 23-year-old Finney's first major film (he'd done a bit in THE ENTERTAINER earlier that year) and the resulting performance remains a fresh revelation. It's another of the "angry young men"
pictures (e.g., ROOM AT THE TOP) and this is one that lingers. Sillitoe, who also wrote THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER, adapted his own novel here with major results.
Finney is a lathe operator in a small town near Nottingham. He is a lively young man devoted to pleasure and thumbing his nose at authority. As he says, "All I want is a good time. The rest is propaganda." To that end, he spends his weekends boozing and brawling and bedding down any woman he can.
He makes a good wage; he has plenty of discretionary money to spend. He hates his job but is willing to put in his week at the lathe in return for the fun he can have with his pay envelope. He's having an affair with Roberts, who is married to his fellow worker, Pringle. Finney enjoys the sexual
liaisons with Roberts, but that's as far as he will go with her; she wants more. At the same time, Finney meets Field, a beautiful, old-fashioned young woman with strict morals. Finney finds himself falling in love with Field, but she won't sleep with him unless there is a commitment, something
Finney cannot bear to make. Then Roberts announces that she's pregnant.
The story seems slim at best, but Reisz's sharp direction and the superb editing combine with Sillitoe's grasp of the argot to make this a compelling, if somewhat difficult to understand, movie. The accents in that area of England are almost impossible for US ears (and even many London auricles)
to fathom, so it had to be looped in places where the words blurred. Sillitoe, who used to work in a Midlands factory, captures the nuances perfectly in his script, and Reisz, who was in his early thirties at the time, does a smashing job in his first feature after having worked in the documentary
field. Despite Finney's youth, he was already a veteran Shakespearean actor and had once taken over for Olivier when Sir Larry was felled by injury on the eve of a performance of Coriolanus at Stratford. It was a sensational outing for Finney, and great things were in store. Roberts was excellent
and her performance (not unlike that of Simone Signoret in ROOM AT THE TOP), like Finney's, was also honored with a BFA award. One of the best of the "kitchen sink" pictures of the era, SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING has more than its share of humor to temper the highly charged drama, and it
stands out in every department--the sex is steamy, the language is raw, the emotions are strong. Still a must-watch.
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